Unboxing the Kindle 2

By Kevin Hemenway
February 25, 2009 | Comments: 21

This is the first of a number of entries planned regarding Amazon's new Kindle 2 and, as such, will serve both as an introduction to the series and as the requisite dump of unboxing and first-use photos. The Kindle 2 is the first e-reader I've wanted to buy for numerous reasons, chief of which are an undying love for Amazon (first purchase in 1999, Amazon Prime member, bakes the UPS guy cookies, 10,000 products rated, etc.), and the necessity of support for Mac OS X, my preferred OS. While I've demo'd the Sony Readers at my local Borders, they never pushed me over the edge of purchasing, especially with the tacit agreement that I'd be unsupported. I've also never been a fan of "serious" reading on a phone or a PDA - it's a bit like reading a 2000 page children's book, with only a paragraph or two at most per viewport.

When the Kindle 2 was announced, a number of questions I had the first time around resurfaced. After some investigation, I found some answers, true, but mostly came away with more questions and a general need for more info. This series will attempt to address my own concerns in exacting detail, but also any further ones you may have: don't hesitate to leave a comment or drop me an email at morbus@disobey.com.

You can expect to find the following addressed in future entries:

  • Just how good is the PDF support in Kindle 2? Is there experimental native support (as I've heard), or do I still need to either convert (paid), convert (unpaid + transfer myself), or convert (myself + transfer myself)? What sort of zooming controls do I have? How badly is the layout corrupted with pictures aligned alongside text?
  • Similarly, what about image bundles? The Sony Readers have received kudos in the past for their comic reading capabilities: can I send over a .zip of images and get a bundled .azw file? Or should I convert to PDF first and view them natively (or via conversion, etc.)? Being able to read my Cerebus phone books or all the black and white editions of 2000 AD would be great, but would it even be plausible given the amount of space available?
  • How restricting is the DRM? Can I backup my own files, regardless of the Amazon-supported online backup (I'm with Jason Scott when it comes to the cloud)? Can I remove the DRM, downgrading the .AZW files to regular old DRM-free Mobipocket files? What does a conversion to .AZW files provide for me, beside extra meta-data and forced DRM?
  • How useful are the annotations? Are they stored on the Kindle in a way I can export or repurpose? Can I automate their scraping from the online backup? The ability to get my annotations out of the Kindle in easily accessible ways will make or break that feature for me.
  • With over 240,000 titles available, why is it so hard to find something to read? Why isn't the recommendation data I've entered for physical product being used to recommend Kindle books? How do I add blogs that aren't officially offered by Amazon? Is one of the major selling points, that you can buy books anywhere at anytime, only useful for bestsellers, fiction, and book clubs?

Enough with teh words, bub, bring on teh pixels! (Note: as I received my non-review-copy Kindle a day late, there have already been a number of Unboxing posts made across the web. I'll try to focus more on screenshots, here, with the implication that all future posts will be screenshots only).

kindle_horizontal_multiple_middle.jpg

Cardboard box (outside); cardboard box (inside); inner sleeve (outside); included docs.


kindle_inner_box_middle.jpg

Cardboard box (inside) on the left; inner sleeve (outside) on the right.


kindle_starting_screens_middle.jpg

Outta-the-box E Ink starting screen (left); initial bootup progress bar (right).


kindle_font_styles_middle.jpg

Of special importance to technical publishers is font styles, especially a monospaced font that can be used for code listings (recently added in firmware version 1.2). Here, using High Performance MySQL, 2nd Edition (.mobi) as an example, we can see monospaced used inline (on the left, first paragraph), and O'Reilly's stylistic conventions (on the right, indicating bold is not yet supported).


kindle_tables_and_code.jpg

On the left, tables are supported. On the right, code blocks aren't monospaced (compared to the PDF display in the bottom right), but command inputs are. (These screens from the .mobi version of High Performance MySQL, 2nd Edition.)


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21 Comments

I've always hated Mobireader. There's always something in the book that doesn't render properly. That's why I'm a big fan of PDFs despite their size. At least you'll get everything rendered correctly.

When I got my iRex iLead, I immediately got a 32 GB CompactFlash card so I could store my PDFs of ebooks. I am somewhat bummed that the Kindle 2's memory is not expandable.

The PDF support for the Kindle is OKish, if the PDF is largely text. If it's formatted, or has images, it comes out a little worse for the wear. I'll be doing a followup post showing some examples of this.

Wow, you really like boxes and packaging.

M

Every other unboxing post obsessed on the display of the unit, something which is readily available just by visiting its product page. I deigned, instead, to take images that I knew others had not.

I'm impressed with Kindle 2 so far give how easy it is to use for my (non-technical) wife who downloaded her first book in minutes.

My view is towards Kindle 3. I am hoping it captures some of these innovations:

http://www.innovationinpractice.com/innovation_in_practice/2009/01/the-lab-innovating-the-kindle-with-task-unification-january-2009.html

I got my Kindle2 and love it so far. I am waiting for the day when a more mature Kindle ecosystem (like one for iPod) emerges. I can think of quite a few good apps related to books which can make reading on Kindle more fun compared to reading a printed book.

-----
Got Kindle?

Would be interested if you can use the mobile version of safari books online with this. Right now It would be great to use at least the mobile version to read my subscription

So, have you had a chance to test various PDF converters? Many people say that conversion sucks even for Kindle 2.0, but it would be nice to see actual examples of PDF files before and after conversion with screenshots, photos of Kindle displaying those PDFs and stuff like that.

Especially interesting would be seeing development books (O'Reilly, Wrox...) converted for Kindle 2.

Thanks in advance!

That post will be showing up sometime the first week of March, yep.

The "screen shots" you show as illustrations are very unreadable. Since, if this were the actual screen quality, I can't see any way that the Kindle would be a viable product; thereofore, I presume this was simply a problem of scanning a Kindle screen? (Retouching the images would have been a good idea.)

The screenshots are taken with a digital camera, and are not meant to be readable, ideally, in the small confines that I've had to make the thumbnails. That's why, if you click each one, you'll see a much larger version (at >1200 pixels wide). I am not a photographer and, by providing the larger versions with a click, am satisfied with the quality available. I will happily attest that the readability of the screen is a lot better than the screenshots, as evidenced by existing marketing materials that Amazon has provided on their site.

Suggestion: try laying the Kindle on a scanner and scanning the screen. Should get better focus, etc.

If you want to see some very clear, in focus screenshots straight from the Kindle 2 you can find some here: Kindle 2 Screenshots

I love my Kindle HOWEVER I will not be buying any more Kindle format books.

I have discovered that I cannot transfer books that I purchased for my Kindle to my Mother's Kindle! This is nuts! I can easily share printed books, but not Kindle books?

So...much as I have enjoyed my Kindle, I'm pretty much done with it now.

Janice,

The only way around it, is to register
both Kindle's to one account. One account can have
up to six (6) Kindle's registered to it.
Any or all of the 6 have access to ALL
books purchased by any of the 6.
I have 3 registered.....myself & 2 daughters.

Is this also the case for PC and/or Blackberry readers?

Hello,
I just bought a Kindle for my husband but am managing his account. I don't seem to see anywhere on Amazon where I can see the content I have purchased. Can you only see if from your Kindle?

Also, is there anyway to back up your content locally?
Thanks,

So I'm debating whether to purchase an amazon kindle 2 or barnes and nobles nook. Does the kindle allow you to upload previously purchased books(such as physical copies) onto the device ?

My husband and I purchased a Kindle2 because we live overseas but already we have had issues with sharing. It is good to know you can register more than one Kindle per account. We also would like to see hard-copies already purchased (through Amazon) available to download (without RE-purchasing)to the Kindle. Does anyone know if this is in the works?

I'm interested in this as well. I have so many tech books purchased through Amazon. I would love to have access to them via the Kindle without having to pay for them all over again. Any chance of this happening? I did notice that Apress offers a $10 companion ebook on some titles, which is definitely a start.

To gloria - you should be able to log into your amazon account on a computer and can see all the books and subscriptions..etc One of the benefits of the kindle 3 is that you can lose your e-read but still have all your books saved with amazon and just put them on your new reader.

Danny - Kindle 3 Cases

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